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North Strand Housing Shelter: Providing Dignity and Respect to the Homeless

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

North Strand Housing Shelter (NSHS) opened in 2010 as a way to address the homeless need in the area. Operating as a non-profit faith-based shelter, it was the first emergency shelter in Horry County to serve men, women and families with children. Guests can stay for up to seven days in one of 57 beds before joining a program that will help them become housed again.

Funded by donations and volunteers, the need was so great that NSHS added 37 beds in June 2015 with the completion of a newly constructed 5,000 square-foot building with both veteran and family wings. Veterans and women with children, have always been given preferential admission at the shelter. Executive Director Dana Black says, "In the effort to help, we have taken the original shelter building and made affordable 'apartments' available for veterans on limited incomes."

Providing bed, bath and food to the underserved is a stepping stone that helps many get back on their feet. The whole person is considered with physical, emotional and spiritual support given to all guests. "Mondays and Wednesdays women remain onsite, and Tuesdays and Thursdays the men remain onsite," Black explains. "During these onsite days, the guests handle laundry and other chores. They also attend classes on life skills, financial management, Bible study and counseling."

During offsite days, shelter guests spend time in town job hunting, going to appointments, shopping or running errands. "Volunteers help our guests identify and obtain benefits they are entitled to," Black states. Guests are then connected with local agencies that are best able to assist them in obtaining these benefits.

Seeking funding to support their new, and frequently filled, facility, NSHS is asking churches and businesses to be Legacy Partners. As the Myrtle Beach area is known as a resort or vacation town, it can be challenging for those attempting to come out of homelessness with a new job or benefits to find affordable housing. "After finding employment," says Black, "we extend their stay to allow time for gathering funds for down payments/deposits. Then, we help the guest locate and transition into their own place to live."

The shelters dozens of volunteers are crucial to its success. They drive NSHS vans, prepare meals, teach classes, answer phones, take messages for guests and help in any way needed. "All of the counseling onsite is done through volunteers from a local counseling center," Black states. "Our classes for financial planning, life skills, Bible Study, etc. are all led by volunteers, either retired or from local agencies/businesses."

Having a roof over their heads, gives self-esteem, dignity and respect to those that NSHS helps. Black says, "We do the best we can using the resources and energy of a fabulous community that has faithfully supported us from the beginning."

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